July 01, 2020

Destiny's Child?

“Geography is destiny,” Napoleon is said to have uttered.

Shortly afterward he invaded Russia, proving both his maxim and that of one of his imperialistic predecessors, Julius Caesar: “It’s only hubris if I fail.”

In one sense, you could say that this magazine is all about geography, specifically human geography, i.e. what Russians do on or because of the place they inhabit on our orb.

After all, our content is unified by being about things Russian, which is largely a geographic definition. But not entirely. Because Russian is also a linguistic, cultural, and historical definition – it is not something defined merely by space, but also by time and humans.

So it is that Russia spills beyond geographical borders, such that a magazine in English on the world’s largest country happens to be published out of one of the smallest state capitals in the US.

So much for destiny.

But still, we do have plenty of geography to discuss. In fact, as noted in our Russian Chronicle section (page 18), this is the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Russian Geographical Society. And, on a related note, we also have an interesting article about what it means to be a geologist today, banging about in the underbrush of eastern Siberian forests (page 32).

The other two features in this issue deal a bit more with Russian cultural geography and the interaction of differing theological, ethical, and artistic sensibilities.

And, speaking of art, this issue is wrapped in the final of four “seasonal” covers we asked illustrator Asya Lisina (see Postscript, page 64) to create for us over the past year. From the beginning, we urged her to think outside the stultifying box of stereotypes that exist for Russia and Russians, and offer up images that were both fun and engaging. We think she succeeded masterfully. So much so that we are thinking of producing her images as a set of notecards. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, enjoy the eclectic, colorful, ever-fascinating world that is Russia, which, of course, we capture just a small slice of in this issue. And yet, even that small slice is fascinating. Or, to end with a quote from the inimitable Kuzma Prutkov: “Looking at our world, one cannot but be surprised.”

Enjoy the issue.

The End. Or just the beginning?

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